Calm within the storm

Calm within the storm

27th Mar 2021 9:00 am

Ironic as it sounds, riding flat out on the racetrack can be quite a meditative experience.

In a world where we’re relentlessly bombarded by mental stimulation, the ability to calm the mind has become a lost art. Ten years ago, I could close my eyes, slow my breathing and meditate, even if for a few minutes at best. Today, I find it impossible to do so, but I think I’ve found a way around the problem. 

Every year on our track day, I try to sneak some time out for a few laps on the bikes, after Rajini has set the lap times. It’d been over a year since I’d last ridden at a racetrack, but there wasn’t enough time to worry about shaking off the rust – might as well jump straight onto the fastest, baddest bike of the lot. After a gentle lap to get some heat into the tyres, it was head-down, gas-open time. Here’s the thing, when you’re riding as fast as your brain can comfortably handle, there simply isn’t any spare mental capacity for anything else. 

Concerns about unanswered emails, work deadlines, domestic matters and everything else just fade away. I didn’t even have time to register the pain in my back that had been plaguing my mind since five months. All that mattered was being at one with the bike and trying to be the best rider I could in that moment. Spot your brake marker, hard on the brakes, ease off the lever as you rail in towards the apex, realign your vision and gently start feeding the throttle in, find the exit, 100 percent gas and silently scream in delight as 155 Italian horses slingshot you down the track, look out for the next corner, do it all over again! 

Oh yes, those few laps were sheer bliss, and while my body ached for the next few days, the mind and spirit were lifted with a renewed sense of joy and lightness I hadn’t felt in a long time. Strictly speaking, what I’d experienced wasn’t meditation in the traditional sense, but what is popularly known as the flow state. It’s a state of being at one with the task in hand, where your body almost goes into autopilot and you excel at whatever you’re doing. Flow state is what the world’s top athletes strive to achieve every time they compete. 

And no, you don’t need an Italian superbike on a racetrack to get there. A simple recipe to hitting this high involves doing a task you like and are good at, and also being able to recognise when you’re doing it well. Finally, you need to be able to push your capabilities within this task, but not to the extent of making it so difficult that you find frustration instead. 

For me, it was a satisfying few laps with a Ducati Panigale V2 on the track that hit the spot. For you, it could be something like painting, playing an instrument, software coding, or anywhere else your passions lie. Whatever it may be, there’s no better feeling than finding your flow!

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